To gather information and stories relevant to our readers, AJC editors and reporters for decades have spent time and energy looking at large sets of data, particularly data on file with state and local governments. We’ve written hundreds of stories based on what we’ve learned from the data.
A good example is real estate data, which is collected by all county governments. Counties keep records of housing sales, which can be useful in understanding trends, values and other important information about almost everyone's most valuable asset – their home. We believe making sense of this kind of data provides an essential service to our readers.
However, in a place the size and complexity of metro Atlanta, so many transactions are filed each month that it is hard for humans to keep up. So, we have decided to use special software that collects and analyzes home sales data at a speed and volume that is beyond what AJC can do with editors and reporters alone. AJC Bot reviews county sales records and automatically generates draft articles tailored to ZIP codes all over metro Atlanta. You soon might see it reporting on other sources of data as well.
This approach is being used by a growing number of news organizations in the U.S. and Europe.
To be clear, this isn’t replacing humans – it’s adding to what our journalists can do. Artificial intelligence is great at breaking down massive amounts of data, but we still need humans to make sense of the math.
The AJC’s partner in this initiative is United Robots, a Swedish company that provides automated editorial texts generated from large sets of data, such as real estate records, sports results, the land registry and new business registrations. United Robots was founded in 2015 from a project within Swedish media group Mittmedia. It is the only provider of automated news articles with roots in journalism. Its services are specifically created for the news industry. In addition to its partners in the U.S., the company has worked with publishers in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Netherlands and Belgium.
The company has found that automated reporting has benefited news organizations in a number of ways, including freeing reporters to focus on reporting rather than analyzing data, finding stories that wouldn’t have been found through traditional reporting and increasing the volume of useful and more relevant articles.
> Read more from The AJC 2020 Metro Atlanta Home Sales Report